Titanic 4 Disembodied Jet Wolf Heads out of Five
"I've got a sinking feeling about this."
Wednesday, 7 January 1998
NOTE: Review salvaged from the original HoF. Contents may have shifted during takeoff and landing.
ALSO NOTE: This was the first full Reel World review ever done. Awww. Sentimentalities.

Jet Wolf Says ...
It's possible that I'm a little biased, I should say that now. Both biased and ignorant. I like disasters.

There is something intrinsically morbid about hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people collectively shelling out millions of their hard earned dollars (or whichever standard unit of currency) to watch a boatload of 1500 or so people die cold, dark, lonely deaths. Nothing loves watching humanity suffer like humanity. Because let's face it, if you liked Titanic, it was for one of two basic reasons: You're a die-hard romantic or you wanted to see that puppy sink like a lead balloon.

I liked Titanic. Guess which category I fell into?

We'd been seeing promos for Titanic since early in the summer, and I admit that my interest became peaked. Despite the title, the trailers were suggesting a film that was not actually ABOUT the Titanic, more that the ship was a setting or a catalyst for the events that transpire. Now I haven't seen all that many movies focusing on the Titanic, but hey, this seemed a little different. As the trailers over the months became more elaborate (the special effects catching my eye, I admit ... I like techincal wizardry), I decided that I would have to make an effort to see it. Thusly did my own string of bad luck begin.

If you read my look at '97, then you know already that I had attempted to see this movie on New Year's Eve, but it had sold out. My mother wanted to see it as well, which made our usual matinees out of the question. I usually have Wednesdays and Thursdays off, but my schedule was messed up due to the holidays, so we were going to see the movies Tuesday night. Mike then stated that he wanted to go also, which lead us to settle on the 8pm Wednesday showing. Bad move.

This is no longer news to some of you, but upon leaving the theater, I took a rather bad turn (literally) and totalled my car, Locke. I'm glad I enjoyed the movie, because it was damned expensive. But anyway, this is a movie review, not a bitch about my car. I mention this mainly to give an excuse for this review not being as specific, in-depth or detailed as I'd like, my mind having been occupied with other information 10 minutes after the movie let out. I also offer up the fact that the bloody thing lasts over three hours. I'm lucky if I can remember if I had lunch or not, details tend to elude me sometimes. But I shall try.

It's possible that I'm a little biased, I should say that now. Both biased and ignorant. I like disasters. Things that push the human spirit to its limits. I enjoy watching how different people react to the same crisis - which ones keep their heads, which ones lose theirs ... These things fascinating me. Well, this movie was loaded with that, along with your traditional societal differences (which were so emphasized in this film that is ceased to become realistic before long ... more on that later). The ignorant part stems from my knowledge of the Titanic disaster itself. I'd imagine an increase of knowledge would either raise my level of enjoyment or lower it, depending upon how accurate the film is. My point here being that I don't know much more about the icident than what the film showed me. Just bear that in mind if I'm enthusiastically cheering about something that is historially or factually a wash-out.

Okay, I think I've blathered on enough and I'm probabLy boring you by now, time to get to movie itself. It opened fairly innocuously, with what appears to be a routine exploratory dive to the ship. It seemed to me as though those little robot thingies should have ... I dunno, warped under the pressure of the ocean, if you listen to the lead scientist carry on. Or at least the fairly flimsy looking cable that attached them to the ship, you'd think that would have buckled or something. And I was slightly puzzled also, because I was sure I'd heard reports about divers actually going into the ship itself, which is completely contradictory to their information. I'm willing to bet more that I'm wrong than they are, however, so it was more a momentary query and not enough to distract me too much.

So anyway, drawing found (and how in the heck did that survive in such pristine condition? I thought that the chick doing the cleaning up should have smacked the guy for grabbing it like that, too), very funny old lady brought in, flashback begins. Again I note that special effects impressed me immensely on this movie, although I may have been incorrect in my assumption. I was of the opnion that there was no way in hell they built another Titanic and set it in water for the filming of those massive trucked shots and overhead pans. I was later told that someone believed they had, in fact, done just that ... built a life-sized boat for the shots. Now that greatly reduces the impress-o-meter, however at the time I was stunned by the fact that I couldn't see where the computerized images had been created. Since I tend to pick apart the techinical aspects of a movie (as anyone who watches it with me will emphatically tell you), when I find something outwardly flawless, my enjoyment factor increases greatly, and this helped to pull me more into the story. Let's jump around a bit now, partly because I can't remember all the details that I would like, partly because I've been on this review for far too long and am getting bored with the bloody thing. While the story of Jack and Rose was certainly very touching and wholly romantic, I actually found myself more interested in the story behind the supporting cast. There's a lot in this movie, enough hints and brief glimpses that screams "FANFIC!" Who wasn't touched by the old couple who chose to die in their bed, or the Irish mother who was tucking in her children? What in the heck was going through the minds of the string quartet who continued to provide an eerie little pocket of sanity while people ran around dying? It's a credit to screenwriter/director James Cameron that made me curious to know more about such relatively unimportant and incidental characters. On the other hand, however, I had no desire to know any more about the main characters. Rose, I knew all I needed to know about her. Same with Jack. Cal, who cares? <grin> Rose's mother, likewise. Though this is probably due more to how unlikable these characters are, or made themselves to be, which was, of course, a plot device to make Rose's situation seem that much worse, and give her a reason to meet Jack, because let's face it, she sure as hell wouldn't have done so if Cal wasn't so damned oppressive. Boy that's a run-on sentence. However I think the most likable character in the thing was the ever-talented Kathy Bates as Molly Brown. Now there is a character that I need to do more research on.

Around halfway through the movie we get a nice glimpse at both worlds that are tentatively co-existing on the ship; the upper crust, with their superficial and mind-numbingly boring conversation, expensive and lackluster dinners, and a general air about everything that was so fake it made you want to scream. A perfect contrast to the inhabitants in the bowels of the ship. Some cheap beer, a stale crust of bread, and an enthusiastic home-made band, and the poverty-stricken were happy as could be. Well, until they're being barred in by the staff, that is. So many social and class issues here ... and we were fortunate enough to get bludgeoned by them all. I appreciate that while social standing was not only an underlying theme but a driving force for the action of the movie, I could have done without having it shoveled down my throat at every turn.

Jack and Rose, drawings, steamy handprints, diamonds, etc. etc. You can keep all the rest of that stuff, we're hitting the REALLY good part! You know, one of things about the movie that I find really fascinating? The fact that every single person going in there knew what the ultimate result would be. The ship would sink. This is a given. And within the first 15 minutes of the movie, you also knew that Rose would survive. These are two major plot points of the movie, and the resolution is known before the thing has really started. Cameron manages to work this to his advantage, and does a fine job of it. Yeah, you KNOW the ship will sink, you KNOW that most of the people getting on will never get off again, but this knowledge only serves to make you more anxious as the ship edges closer towards the iceburg, not to mention all the little things that could have been done differently to prevent the whole mess. Me, I think I blame the guy who could "smell ice." Just cuz.

Ahh yes, I remember another point I wanted to make. Cal, the mentally unstable. Actually, more the fact that he was just such a ... prick. Really. I recall being in the theater after he'd been told that "your money won't save you, any more than it'll save me" (I liked that scene. More damned money/class issues, though), when he stumbles on the little girl cowering in the corner. "Ah ha!" I cried. To myself, because the place was packed. "Ah ha! Moral choice!" Which path would Cal take? Would he prove himself to be a low-life scum-sucking pansy-ass bastard, or would he actually come equipped with a few moral standards? Lo and behold, he takes the good path! Aaaand makes a U-turn back to the same one. I was amused. How many other people gave up on EVER liking the guy when they saw that? I'll attempt to actually not spoil the ending too much. Well, no screw that, I think I will.

Major Spoiler Warning, right ahead!

Yeah, I admit it, it was sad when Jack died. I'm not sure that the story could have ended any other way, but it was sad nevertheless. Hell, just seeing all the dead bodies floating there was pretty damned sad, particularly the mother and her baby. And here's an interesting moral choice for each of us regarding the life boats. The sailor who was telling Molly Brown that they couldn't go back because the survivors would overturn them had a point. Despite being half frozen, adrenaline can drive the human body to do some incredible things, especially when you toss in a healthy dose of blind panic and a serious will to live. Sure, we can look at it from our cozy warm chairs and think "Of course I would go back!" But would you? 'Tis an interesting thing to ponder on.

Still, Rose keeps her promise and she lives, changing her name and doing gods know what until the movie opens. She decides for whatever reason that she doesn't need the diamond anymore (and I could come up with any one of a number of literarily appeasing reasons, but they'd all be the sort of BS I put on essay finals, so I won't bother), and casts into the ocean, over the wreckage of the ship.

Okay, you can look again, the coast is clear.

While what actually happens just as the movie ends is debatable - at least it was between myself and a friend - I was quite pleased to see everyone. I was even more pleased to notice the poor, tortured Captain finally able to break himself out of the personal hell in which he had obviously been kept long enough to applaude with the rest of the gathering, no matter how long it took him to do so. Very nice, very subtle touch. A little bit of redemption for everyone. Well, everyone except for Cal. <evil grin>

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